Deb Fischer Off To Controversial Start
In Her First Weeks As A Senator

This was going to be one of those “weeks off” from a regular-length column, a belated recognition of the fact that I announced some weeks ago that I would be going on a “week on, week off” schedule to allow myself more time for some pressing personal business on the weeks off.

I find myself violating that “week off” policy about as often as I honor it.  I can’t resist commenting on some major breaking news stories before they’re two weeks old.

So today, some commentary on Deb Fischer’s first weeks in office as the Nebraska Republican starts a six-year term as a United States Senator.

Fischer continues on her—let’s be considerate and simply call it controversial—path as a brand new U.S. Senator from Nebraska.

Latest downer:  Being among the minority in a 14-11 Senate Government Committee vote which sent to the floor President Obama’s nomination of former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.

First major mistake by the brand new senator:  Endorsement of a proposal, advanced by ultra-conservative “Tea Party” types in the Republican Party right-wing, for a constitutional amendment requiring the government to balance the federal budget year after year, expenditures not exceeding revenues.

A simply impractical if not irresponsible position.  A balanced budget is normally desirable, but such a financial straitjacket should not be written into the Federal Constitution.

Simply No Chance For Balanced-Budget Amendment

And the bottom line truth, of course, is that there is virtually no chance that a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution would clear these hurdles:

Two-thirds majority approval in both houses of Congress, followed by approval of three-fourths of the 50 state legislatures.

No way is that going to happen, and Senator Fischer, freshman or not, should know that.

Then came another major mistake, as I see it:  Fischer’s announced decision that she will vote against former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as President Obama’s choice to be Secretary of Defense.

Fischer’s grounds for disapproval of Hagel included such things as a statement by Hagel which Fischer felt did not show a sufficiently strong willingness to stand strongly with Israel in its confrontation with Iran.  Fischer apparently feels—her written statement was not a masterpiece of clarity—that the primary focus of American support for Israel should be a clearly announced determination to take military action against Iran if there are clear indications that Iran has become capable using nuclear missiles against Israel and is threatening or actually preparing to use those missiles.

I believe a great many Americans would support such action but would prefer that America continue to join with other nations in economic pressure (which is producing results) while making clearer that we are prepared to use the military action option if it appears necessary to protect Israel.

This, as I understand it, is President Obama’s policy (although not expressed in such clear language) and would be the policy which Hagel would pursue as Obama’s Secretary of Defense.

Troop “Surge” Didn’t Produce Peace And Stability In Iraq

Fischer also is criticized Hagel for his opposition to the United States military “surge” which threw more troops into an effort to bring the war in Iraq to a satisfactory end.  A satisfactory end?  With a minority Shiite Muslim government in office? With much of the Sunni majority of the Iraqi people embittered?

With Sunnis continuing to blow up Shiites and sometimes in the process killing American military personnel who have been left behind to assist the Shiite government in trying to bring peace and stability to that still troubled country?

Another Fischer mistake, in my judgment:  Failure to assert that her vote against Hagel is not influenced by the fact that Hagel had endorsed her opponent, former two-term Democratic Senator from Nebraska Bob Kerrey.

A good many people likely wouldn’t have believed her, but for the record she certainly should have said that her decision was not influenced by Hagel’s public support of Kerrey.

Considering Senator Fischer’s feet-first performance in her first five weeks in office, I recall how Nebraska’s first female United States Senator, Eve Bowring, from ranch country like Fischer, approached her seven months in office when appointed to fill the vacancy created by the death of Senator Dwight Griswold in 1954.

Some of the Washington press corps were understandably fascinated with the female rancher senator from Nebraska.

So Eve was quickly peppered with questions as to the positions she would take on this or that matter of senatorial importance.  Her wise answer went something like this:

“I’m from ranch country, and the first thing I do when I try to get acquainted with a pasture that’s new to me is to ride the fences and find where the gates are.  I think I’d better do something like that in the Senate before taking positions.”

Deb Fischer, who says she is a rancher (she is part owner of a family ranch near Valentine but lives in town) might think about the approach which made Eve Bowring of Merriman, Nebraska a valued and respected member during her relatively brief ride on the Senatorial range.

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To salvage part of my “week off,” I’ll go no further with serious comment but offer a cartoon which has appeared in this space before but which my partner Jackie and I continue to find amusing.  We hope that you do, too.

Nothing like this is likely to happen again.  Increasingly, I yield to my natural instinct to stay up late and sleep late.  Early breakfasts are for people who go to bed early.

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